6 ways to make your meetings more effective

Meetings can be a great opportunity for your team to share knowledge, discuss ideas and make important decisions. However, more often than not, meetings are not as effective as they should be. If you’ve ever found yourself in an unproductive meeting, or one you can’t wait to get out of – don’t worry, you are not the only one.

When meetings are done right, they can be extremely beneficial in aligning business goals and driving development.

Here are 6 tips to make your future meetings more effective:

Establish a clear agenda

One of the most common problems of unproductive meetings is unclear objectives. When you are setting a meeting, make sure to communicate exactly what topics will be discussed and what each person should bring to the table. This will set expectations for what will be accomplished and allow attendees to prepare accordingly.

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A brief email before the meeting can go a long way. If the meeting includes slides or additional material, share the information at least 24 hours prior. Letting participants review data beforehand will give them time to thoroughly digest all the information, come up with questions or comments, and make the meeting more collaborative than if they were presented with new information during the meeting.

Identify a lead

There’s a reason why ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ is a proverb. When it comes to managing a meeting, it helps to designate one person to lead the meeting and act as the main contact person. Having someone orchestrate the meeting ensures discussions stay on the right track and reduces awkward moments of not knowing what to do next. A lead can also act as a clear decision maker who can move topics forward when meetings get stuck. As well, all questions before the meeting should be clarified by one main contact person. This will remove any confusion and ensure every attendee is on the same page.

Keep meetings short & small

How often have meetings filled up your schedule, only to end up being a waste time? Before a meeting is organized, consider thoroughly whether it is really necessary.

Does the meeting create substantial value? Is there no better way to exchange the information?

If the answer is no – don’t schedule the meeting.

If the answer is yes – schedule the meeting, but keep it short and small.

Don’t let meetings run longer than they are supposed to, because you will waste valuable time for yourself and others. Time constraint reinforces urgency and breeds creativity. If you restrict the length of the meeting, people will more likely focus on the most important topics and avoid going off track.

Using a timer is an effective way to enforce a time limit. When the timer rings, the meeting is over. Period. The psychological effect of a timer will ensure future meetings do not go over time, and imminent information is exchanged as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

Only those who can make an important contribution should attend the meeting. People who do not add additional value to the topic do not need to be present. If someone is not contributing or learning, or they do not want to do either, then they need to leave. Having less people will not only speed up meetings but also ensure those who do not need to attend can better spend their time on more important tasks. 

Change it up

Try taking your next meeting outside. Regular meetings can become boring and repetitive, and be less productive as a result. If the weather is nice, go for a walk. If not, chat over coffee at a cafe nearby. Switching things up will take away the monotony, and keep meetings exciting and enjoyable for everyone involved.

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Standup meetings have also proven to be effective. Aside from physically standing up, team members receive updates on the latest happenings and get caught up with what is going on in each department. While standup meetings may not be practical for every occasion, the advantage is they are short and straightforward. Standing for a long period of time is uncomfortable, and this discomfort will help propel the meeting.

Establish ground rules of conduct

Structured meetings with every attendee completely focused to contribute are the most effective. To achieve such meetings, certain rules and etiquettes must be established. The most common faux pas is arriving late. Not only does this push back the start time for the entire group, but also wastes time for punctual team members. The best way to deal with late arrivals is to begin meetings as scheduled. Accommodating latecomers will only reinforce the disruptive behavior. If someone is habitually late, don’t wait for them. You can also come up with small penalties, such as singing a song or putting a few coins into a “latecomer” jar to encourage attendees to show up on time.

Another important rule is no electronics. I don’t know about you, but the notes I took in university were always much better on paper than on my laptop. This is not only because electronics are distracting, but they also hinder the retention of information. Without computers and cellphones, you will have less distractions and be able to better focus on the topic at hand. Being in the present will allow team members to better capture concepts during the meeting. Higher concentration on processing information in the now will produce more ideas and solutions, and as a result, increase the productivity of your meetings.

Conclude with clear direction

Make sure to save the last few minutes of the meeting to recap and wrap everything up. Try to dig out questions during Q&A to ensure there is absolutely no confusion as to what each attendee is required to do after the meeting. The meeting lead must also designate tasks and reiterate specific goals and deadlines. This will allow every attendee to leave the meeting with concrete next steps for action. And by doing so, you will set your team on the right track and maximize the efficiency of your meeting.

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